Oscar De La Hoya Hospitalized for Breakthrough COVID, Withdraws from Comeback Boxing Match
Oscar De La Hoya was scheduled to square off against UFC champion Vitor Belfort at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 11
The Olympic gold medalist, 49, revealed that he has been hospitalized for the respiratory virus on Friday, saying in a statement shared to his Twitter and Instagram, "Wanted you to hear directly from me that despite being fully vaccinated, I have contracted Covid and am not going to be able to fight next weekend."
De La Hoya was scheduled to square off against UFC champion Vitor Belfort at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 11. The boxing match would have been his first since his retirement from the sport in 2008.
"Preparing for this comeback has been everything to me over the last months, and I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support," De La Hoya said in his statement. "I am currently in the hospital getting treatment and am confident I will be back in the ring before the year is up. God bless everyone and stay safe."
De La Hoya also spoke about contracting COVID-19 in an accompanying video filmed from the hospital. "I mean, what are the chances of me getting COVID? I've been taking care of myself and this really, really kicked my a--," he said.
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Breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus — are rare, but possible and expected, as the vaccines are not 100 percent effective in preventing infections. Still, vaccinated people who test positive will likely be asymptomatic or experience a far milder illness than if they were not vaccinated. The majority of deaths from COVID-19 — around 98 to 99 percent — are in unvaccinated people.
Four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield is being tapped as De La Hoya's replacement, though the new match-up is unlikely to be approved by the California State Athletic Commission, according to The Los Angeles Times.
A spokesperson for Triller, who is organizing the match, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
De La Hoya's COVID-19 diagnosis comes five months after the athlete announced his return to boxing. He last fought in December 2008, when he lost to Manny Pacquiao.
When he announced his retirement in 2009, De La Hoya had won world championships in six different weight classes, concluding his career with a record of 39-6.
"Look, it's been a long time, yes," he told ESPN last year of his upcoming return. "But actually my jab feels faster than ever. I have to make sure that my conditioning is perfect, my health is good."
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